Working with the Whitney’s Replication Committee – The New Yorker

The Custodians What will be the new tratteggio? Acknowledging the hand of museum conservators in the digital age.

Onward and Upward with the Arts JANUARY 11, 2016 ISSUE
The Custodians
How the Whitney is transforming the art of museum conservation.

The Art of Conservation
The New Yorker · by Ben Lerner

What will be the new tratteggio? I don’t mean a technique for covering
losses in new media. I mean a strategy for acknowledging the hand of
the institution in the life of the work—a way of showing when and how
and why the museum has altered what it displays. In the Whitney’s
recently concluded inaugural exhibition, the museum label describing
“Cost of Living (Aleyda)” was somewhere between insufficient and
misleading. It said that the objects on the cart were made by 3-D
printing, but it said nothing about the planned obsolescence of those
particular objects; it did not indicate that the work remains
unfinished, awaiting more advanced printers. (Curators, as if granting
Duchamp’s pessimism about conservation, call museum labels
“tombstones.”) This placard is a placeholder until Kline and the
Whitney can settle on a more accurate description of the work. What’s
clear is that the traditional data—measurements, materials, even
dates—will be inadequate.

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